Healthy Sleep Habits
A good night’s rest is the best, right? For many of us, however, it can be frustratingly elusive. Sedentary jobs, electric lighting, chronic stress, and myriad more lifestyle factors can all contribute to nights spent tossing and turning without any respite. The World Health Organization recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, but it’s not just in quantity we’re lacking – the quality of our sleep is just as important to our overall well-being.
How to improve sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a holistic approach to getting consistently good shut-eye. It’s about managing all the different factors in your day-to-day life that can impact the quality of your sleep – and making these as positive as possible. Here are some of the core habits behind having a healthy sleep routine.
1. Be mindful of your media
The things we consume aren’t just physical: what we take in also includes things that can have an effect on our mental state. In the hours before bedtime, take care with what you consume. If watching the news or, say, a tense thriller series leaves you feeling stressed out, frustrated, angry, or just low-level anxious, avoid these a good few hours before you want to sleep. Steer clear of social media during these hours as well – the content that appears on your feed can be unpredictable, and by scrolling mindlessly before bed, you risk being triggered into racing thoughts just as you’re trying to drift off.
2. Put screens to bed first
Another problem with media consumption before bed is the effect of blue light from TV screens, phones, and other devices. Blue light suppresses melatonin, interrupting the circadian rhythm that tells us when it is time to sleep and when to keep us alert. Try to give yourself at least an hour between screen time and bedtime. Find some practices that help you to switch off during this time, even if it’s just doing the dishes.
3. Be consistent about bedtime
Aiming for the same bedtime every day has been found to improve sleep quality and overall health. Being consistent with the time you get into bed will help your body learn more instinctively when to start winding down.
4. Establish your routine
Having a solid bedtime routine will tell your mind and body that it is safe to switch off and relax into sleep. Create some order around brushing your teeth, stretching, reading a book, or listening to a story – whatever makes your evenings mindful.
5. Mellow out with meditation
Meditation is proven to have a strong regulatory effect on the body’s functioning. As well as the immediate benefits of a bedtime meditation practice to calm the mind and body, there’s a cumulative impact over the long term. There are lots of ways to meditate, and different methods work for different people一so find what fits comfortably into your bedtime and/or morning routine. Transcendental Meditation is a popular self-led practice that involves the repetition of a mantra, and there are plenty of apps for beginners offering guided meditations designed to help you drift off.
6. Create a sleepy sanctuary
Your bedroom should, ideally, be a place that’s optimized for deep, restful sleep一somewhere you feel safe to get your best shut-eye. Temperature is an important factor, so make sure your bedroom is cool enough and suitably dark. Turn off any electronics so there are no blinking lights一or better yet, remove them completely from your bedroom. Researchers are still investigating whether WiFi can affect our sleep patterns or not, but if you spend your nights next to a router, perhaps experiment with switching it off while you snooze, to see if it helps you. If you work from home, try to avoid working from your bed or bedroom, in an effort to keep this space dedicated purely to sleep and relaxation.
7. Cut down the caffeine
Avoid stimulants like caffeinated coffee and tea, and even alcohol, in the hours before bedtime. If you are particularly sensitive, limit your caffeine intake as much as possible throughout the day, and stick to decaf or herbal teas after lunch.
8. Let your stomach settle
Your body needs a few hours to digest what you eat, and if it’s still working hard when you get into bed, you’ll struggle to fall into a deep sleep. Try to leave at least three hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime, and avoid late-night snacks.
9. Walk for your winks
Moving your body regularly is one of the most effective ways to ensure a good night’s sleep. Find ways to build more activity into your day, whether it’s walking to work, scheduling some workouts in advance, or taking a stress-busting stroll to get away from your desk in the afternoon.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep; Sleep timing, sleep consistency, and health in adults: a systematic review; Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep
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